One question that employers and managers often ask is how much they need to pay if an employee comes to work but falls sick and has to go home halfway through the day.

The law does not specify what employers must do in these circumstances, so it’s left to the employer’s discretion. In addition to Statutory Sick Pay, employers will often have their own sick pay scheme, where they are free to set the terms.

Sickness absence policy

Ideally, the rules you choose to implement should be set out in your sickness absence policy. If you do not have anything in place, our Employment Law Advisers will draft new documents to ensure you comply with your legal obligations, meet best practice and protect your organisation’s best interests.

As a sign of goodwill, you may decide that you will pay them for the whole day regardless of how long they have been in work. Or perhaps you will pay them for the hours they have managed to work. Alternatively, you may state that if they have worked, say more than two hours, they will be entitled to half a day of pay and if they have worked more than half a day, they will be entitled to a full day’s pay. Whatever you decide, the rules should be applied fairly and consistently to avoid any grievances relating to different treatment.

If you do decide to specify thresholds, be aware that employees may feel under pressure to come into work or continue working even when they are feeling very poorly. Not only will illness affect their performance and productivity, it may delay their recovery, leading to longer absences. If the employee is operating heavy machinery or undertaking a dangerous job, it is also more likely that an accident could occur, creating significant risks for all those in the workplace. Additionally, employees who are suffering from a contagious illness, for example chicken pox or the flu, should remain at home to avoid the illnesses spreading and causing a mass exodus in the workplace!

What happens if it turns into a longer absence?

Unfortunately, employees may need to take more time off to recover, which means you will need to think about whether Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is due.

If the employee meets the eligible requirements, SSP will be paid by the employer from the 4th day of absence for up to 28 weeks. If an employee has come into work and worked ten minutes, but starts to feel sick and needs to go home, this will not be considered a day of incapacity for statutory sick purposes. However, if they can come into work but have been unable to do any work, this will be deemed a day of incapacity.

If you have a more generous contractual sick pay scheme, you will also need to think about whether they are eligible for this.

For more advice on sick pay, contact your Employment Law Adviser.

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